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Odd Upper Captiva standoff sparks a parks investigation

By Staff | Feb 21, 2011

The Barrier Island Parks Society is buying a golf cart for a 365-acre park it manages on Upper Captiva where the residents have blocked off access to anyone who doesn’t have a boat.

And that’s not the strange part.

A well-drilling business is suspected of creating an unauthorized road through the state park, said Ranger Chad Lach, crushing seven gopher tortoise burrows and cutting down trees in the process.

A locked gate usually prohibits vehicles from accessing the walking park but “no trespassing” signs and the locks and chain were removed by the intruders. This caused a rift between the Upper Captiva Fire District and Lach resulting in UCFD no longer allowing Gasparilla State Park rangers to use their golf cart to traverse the park.

“They were the only other ones who had keys to the locks,” Lach said in explaining the dispute. “They’ve asked us not to use their vehicles any longer.”

The stolen locks, chains and signs have been replaced and the case is under investigation.

The Upper Captiva Fire District did not immediately return calls for comment.

The BIPS Board approved Lach’s request to spend $3,100 on a used golf cart to be housed at a volunteer’s home on Upper Captiva.

Although it falls under the Cayo Costa Park plan, Lach said Upper Captiva is unique. All roads where visitors might drive to their park have been declared private by the Upper Captiva Civic Association so the only way someone from off-island can visit is by docking a boat along a 2-mile stretch of beach and walking.

“That’s a real friendly place,” said BIPS Chairman Larry Hannah.

“It’s a goofy situation,” Lach said.

In other action:

• Lach said the busy season has already arrived on Boca Grande where as many as 900 people a day have come to use the parks and beaches.

“It’s full,” Lach said.

• The Green Gala’s Viva Las Vegas casino gaming theme continues to excite islanders, said Jim Grant, BIPS past chairman. It’s important because BIPS must sell at least 200 tickets under its contract with the Boca Bay Pass Club.

“Last year was the first time in my life on Boca Grande I’ve ever had people ask me if they could stay past 9 p.m.,” Grant said with a smile. “We stayed open until 10:30 p.m.”